sweets for the sweet

Red Velvet CupcakesValentine’s Day is coming up fast, so you might want to bake a nice sweet treat for your honey, your friends, or your kids. I’ve got two here—one is a bit labor intensive, and the other is quick and easy, plus your bonus recipe, Lemon Sponge Pie, not available in the newspaper. At the end of this column is a link to a PDF, so you can print out these terrific recipes and share them with others.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake is not just a yellow cake with red food coloring added. It is actually a lovely chocolate cake dressed up for the big day. A Valentine’s Day classic, this makes 15 cupcakes but can easily be doubled for parties. Sifting the flour three times helps create the velvety texture of this cake.

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 1¼ cups flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Special Dark)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ bottle (half an ounce) red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Muffin tin cup liners

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • ½ package (4 ounces) regular block cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ box (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • Chocolate chips (optional)

Directions for the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour twice before mixing with cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Sift flour mixture one more time. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food coloring, and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 15 paper or foil-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.

Directions for the Frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
  2. Spread on top of cooled cupcakes. Decorate with chocolate chips or fresh raspberries if desired.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Bars

Perfect for your Valentine and so pretty, this takes only 15 minutes to put together and about 25 minutes to cook. I rarely use boxed mixes, but if you’re a busy partner, wife, or husband, you get a pass. Besides, it is so good, you can indulge now and then. This makes 12-15 servings, so share with loved ones!

First, make the brownies:

  1. Mix and bake brownie mix according to package directions (most box mixes use water and an egg, and sometimes oil) I like to add a tsp of vanilla extract and a tsp of cinnamon to a box brownie mix for this dish, but it is totally optional.
  2. Bake in a prepared 13×9 pan, taking care not to over-bake. Cool completely.
  3. Chill a mixing bowl in the ‘fridge to whip the cream later.

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 3-oz. box instant white chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 21-oz.can raspberry pie filling

Fresh raspberries, hot fudge ice cream topping, and additional whipped cream to garnish are optional.

Directions for finishing:

  1. In small bowl, combine 1 cup of the cream and pudding mix. Stir for 2 minutes until very thick.
  2. In chilled bowl, beat remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into pudding. Carefully spread over completely cooled brownies.
  3. Top with pie filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting. If desired, garnish with additional whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and/or drizzle with hot fudge ice cream topping before serving.
  4. A drizzle of chocolate fudge sauce on the plate before plating looks really nice. Enjoy!

lemonspongeLemon Sponge Pie

If you love citrus, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to make a sweet, lemony pie for your sweetie or yourself. This is an original Amish delicacy, very popular at flea markets and Amish roadside stands. It’s so easy to put together, and it’s delicious. I love this with a homemade pastry crust but to make it easier, you can use packaged rolled pie crust or prepared graham cracker crust if you want.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbs butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 lemons, zested then juiced
  • 2¾ cups milk, divided
  • 6 Tbs flour
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Cream butter, sugar, and egg yolks together. Add lemon zest and juice.
  3. Place flour in a separate bowl and slowly mix in 1 cup of the milk, mashing any lumps, till smooth. Add to butter and egg yolk mixture, then remaining 1¾ cups of milk. Mix till very well blended.
  4. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl and beat with a stand mixer till stiff peaks form. Fold into butter and egg yolk mixture and pour into pie shell. Bake till firm and top is nicely brown.

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